Check against delivery.
Thank you Chris, and good afternoon everyone.
Over the last 24 hours, we identified 238 new cases of COVID-19, and completed about 5,400 tests. Our positivity rate is 4.5 per cent.
There are currently 434 people being treated for COVID-19 in hospital, including 81 in the ICU.
Sadly, I must announce that 6 new deaths have been reported to Alberta Health in the last 24 hours.
I extend my deepest sympathies to anyone who is grieving a loss from any cause.
As mentioned yesterday, my team and I are closely monitoring new developments around the Omicron variant.
And as we committed, we will continue to keep Albertans updated with any new developments.
Which is why today, in the interest of transparency, I am reporting that we have now one confirmed case of the Omicron variant in Alberta.
This case has been confirmed in a returning traveller from Nigeria and the Netherlands.
The individual tested positive while asymptomatic and I can confirm that this individual has not left quarantine since their arrival from international travel.
We have notified the individual and their household and all necessary measures are in place to prevent transmission.
I would like to remind all Albertans that neither this individual nor their household members have done anything wrong.
From previous variants and spread, we have at times seen stigma or criticism directed towards individuals or groups.
I encourage all Albertans to show empathy, to this household, and any others who may eventually be identified with the Omicron variant.
While it is important that we all continue to be vigilant in the face of COVID-19, to protect ourselves and others, I don’t want Albertans to be alarmed.
As I mentioned yesterday, we anticipated the arrival of this variant in the province eventually, based on what we have seen with previous strains of COVID-19.
We are well-prepared for this eventuality and have the necessary tools in place to monitor this case and any potential spread of the variant.
As I have mentioned, our goal is to delay the spread of Omicron while we learn more about it.
At this time, this is the only confirmed case of Omicron in the province.
There are federal requirements currently in place, including a mandate that anyone who has arrived in Canada from South Africa, Eswatini, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Namibia in the last 14 days is required to immediately have a COVID test and to quarantine at home for 14 days following their arrival.
All of these travellers already in Alberta were contacted over the weekend with information on current protocols, including testing and quarantine requirements.
These travellers and their households have also been offered household rapid testing kits in addition to PCR testing requirements.
Going forward, any Canadian citizens or permanent residents who return after the travel ban must get a molecular test in their connecting country and then an arrival test upon landing in Canada.
Per the federal requirements, while awaiting test results, they will be required to stay at a designated hotel.
If the test is negative, they can leave the hotel, but will face a mandatory 14-day quarantine at home and testing again on day 8 after returning.
We will continue to monitor any new advice coming from the federal government, and adjust our approach as needed.
I also want to emphasize that we should not stigmatize countries where new variants are identified, as these are simply the countries where we know about transmission.
For this reason, when we identify a case in a returning international traveller from any country, we will do a full case investigation, contact tracing and notification, offer PCR testing for all close contacts and make rapid testing available for households, and in some specific settings such as schools and child care.
With the emergence of this new variant, I want to remind Albertans of the steps they can take to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
These steps have worked before, and we anticipate they will continue to work with this new variant.
First and foremost, having a complete vaccine series is the best defence we have against COVID-19. If you haven’t already, please take the necessary steps to be immunized.
There continue to be vaccines available across the province, and the majority of Albertans aged 12 and up who haven’t received a vaccine yet, could do so on a walk-in basis as early as today.
Vaccines are also now available by appointment for children aged 5 to 11.
I encourage parents and guardians to seek out reliable information when making vaccine decisions for their children.
Registration for tonight’s teletown hall on this topic is now closed, but we will post the audio online afterwards for Albertans who were unable to participate but who would like to hear the conversation.
And as always, whether you are vaccinated or not, please continue to follow all public health measures currently in place.
They have been well-proven to reduce spread of COVID-19, and at this time, there are no signals that they will be less effective against Omicron.
Maintain good hand hygiene, wear a mask in all indoor public places, keep your gatherings small and outdoors if possible, avoid crowded indoor places and maintain 2 metres of physical distancing at all times when interacting with people outside your household.
If we all follow the measures in place and as many of us as possible are fully vaccinated, we can protect our communities and our health-care system by controlling the spread of Omicron and other variants.
Thank you and I’m happy to take questions.